Good nutrition and regular exercise help you stay healthy and live longer and everything that you eat and drink affects how your body functions. And, as your body's needs vary at different stages of your life and according to how you live your life, your nutritional needs vary too.
The quintessential connection between food and health is clear: to grow properly and function normally, you need a complete range of nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fibre and water, as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals.
Many of these nutrients are not just essential for normal body functioning, but they can actually improve your state of health and protect you against a number of diseases.
Eating well makes you feel well, which improves your mood and enables you to cope better with stress.
If your diet lacks any nutrients or provides too much of certain factors, you will not function at an optimum level. At the same time, you may be creating future problems and we all are now very well aware with that; for example, there is a strong evidence that eating too much animal fat can lead to cardiovascular disease while skipping calcium from your daily menu especially in your teens may lead to osteoporosis later.
To function properly, your body needs a daily intake of a full range of essential nutrients, including a variety of fruits and vegetables, pulses, whole grains, low fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, healthy oils such as olive.
What you eat can influence how you feel, your ability to concentrate, your ability to enjoy, your resistance to infection and your risk of developing diseases.
The importance of a calorie-balanced diet to reduce body weight is clear but so also is the need for adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals in the drive to both maintain good health and promote a better quality of life from childhood through old age.
The body gets energy which is essential for life, from food. Our bodies expend the energy in various ways; some energy is used to maintain the critical day-to-day bodily functions that help us survive, also called as involuntary activities. We also expend energy through our conscious daily activities which can range from sedentary to strenuous exercise and sport.
During some stages of our lives and in certain circumstances, including childhood, pregnancy, breast feeding, athletic training, and when we are sick, or recovering from any illness, our bodies require extra energy to cope with the additional demands that are made.
Similarly, people recovering from surgery or severe injury have extremely high energy requirements for the body's repair mechanisms to function properly.
If these extra energy requirements are not met by the food we eat, wounds may fall to heal and a full recovery will take a longer time to occur.
A nutritious diet that meets your body's nutritional and energy needs, coupled with an active lifestyle, is the key to optimum health and wellbeing and for optimum health, all of the energy we expend in activities must be balanced by the energy we obtain from food.
Elements of good nutrition
Eat wisely all day long – Eat a nourishing breakfast, lunch and dinner and healthy, modest, nutritionally significant snacks between meals to keep your energy even.
• Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables – If you don't do so already, try to eat five to nine servings of vegetables and fruits a day.
• Say yes to good fats – Don't discriminately cut fat; eat less saturated fat and avoid trans-fat but do eat plenty of unsaturated fats.
• Upgrade your carbohydrates – Instead of simply cutting carbs, shift from more refined carbohydrates to complex carbohydrates like whole grains, whole wheat products, etc.
• Choose the low fat and healthy proteins – Eat more protein from vegetable sources such as beans and nuts along with healthy fish and fowl and of course less red meat.
• Drink plenty of water – Drink plenty of water and avoid drinking empty calories from sweetened juices and fizzy drinks.
• Move more – Getting at least 30 minutes of just about any kind of physical exercise every day is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
Monika Seth/Nutritionist and diet consultant specialising in weight loss at Al Raffah Hospital